Saturday, 14 December 2013

Of Romantic Standards

Some of this kind of follows on from the previous post.
Ever since the paradoxes have resolved, something has changed within me in terms of how I look at girls. To put it bluntly, my standards in terms of physical appearance have been launched beyond the Andromeda galaxy. Or further.
My personal struggle at the moment is the fact that I potentially made a celebrity my standard in terms of looks (by the way I don't think celebrity crushes are particularly helpful, I struggle with this quite a bit). She is indeed extremely beautiful, and now I don't think I'm willing to go for anyone who is less beautiful. But is this wise? 
Some may instantly jump and say "that is so superficial"! But that is not the point. It's not like I don't care about the inside at all. In fact, going for a non-Christian is still just as silly and unwise because why would you want to share your life with a person who hasn't got the same belief and even worse the same assurance of salvation? 
But where do we draw the line? What should be our standards on the inside and also on the outside? 
I don't know everything concerning this subject, but I will try to explain what I believe to be Biblical.

I think the two areas - beauty on the inside and beauty on the outside - require a slightly different answer.
First, someone's character on the inside is a rather complex issue, but at its basics it all comes down to three factors: sin, God's grace, and personal holiness. If you are a Christian then you have been set free from your sin and God looks at you as righteous (Romans 8:1). You still mess up in this life (Romans 7:21-25), but you already have eternal life and are being transformed into Christ's likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Practically this will mean that whoever you potentially marry will have character flaws and will fail almost every moral standard you may set before them. They may struggle less with some things than others, but they will never be perfect. However this is where grace comes in. We are meant to look at the other person as Christ would look at them. They have been washed clean by His blood, which means that whenever they fail us we are to forgive them (Matthew 18:22). Certainly, this does not excuse them from pursuing holiness. In marriage, both the man and the woman should urge each other on to walk the narrow road (1 John 1:5-10), in order for them to mature as Christians, being built up in love and godly character as a sign of their true faith in Christ.
So what should we look for on the inside? Not perfect people, but sinners saved by grace who pursue holiness. Of course, the issue is often more complex, as there are other factors such as personality, church background, family background etc. But those three points I've mentioned are the most important.
In terms of the other factors, I am not wise enough to lay out a method for figuring out exactly who you could marry, but I encourage you to pray about the particular situation you're in and I am sure the Lord will give you wisdom to discern what is wisest (James 1:5).

When it comes to appearance I think the issue is slightly different. My stand on this is that since we don't HAVE to get married, then it is perfectly fine to have certain standards. What I would advise against is having false expectations.
Let's face it, we are going to get wrinkly, lose our hair and our eyes will dim. The only true treasure that remains is Christ in our hearts (Proverbs 31:30). But it is also important not to think of marriage as purely just a spiritual union between two people. Sexual and physical attraction are good things. God made them! 
For a while I struggled with the idea "what if marrying an ugly person is more loving?" But it's a really silly concept. If you don't find someone attractive, you don't have to marry them! Simple.
But please don't misunderstand. I am not saying that people who are less beautiful are not as valuable or that we should avoid them. By no means! Our identity and our perception of someone's identity is to be found in Christ and not in physical appearance. But here's the point. Marriage does not equal our identity in Christ's eyes or what our identity should be in our fellow Christians' eyes. 
One of my best friends always brings up the verse that says "But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7). But to say that this verse applies to the standards of appearance we have concerning a marriage partner is to take it out of context.  This verse is talking about man's state and condition before God and how it's not determined by whatever people think of that person, only by what God thinks. This has nothing to do with choosing to marry someone.
So when I say marriage does not equal our identity in Christ's eyes, what I mean is that if we are rejecting someone based on their looks we are not being superficial. We are not devaluing them as a person, only saying that we are not attracted to them and therefore do not consider them a suitable marriage partner. Physical attraction is part of marriage and it seems absurd to disregard it, no matter how nice the person might be. 
The challenge of course comes when someone rejects us because they don't find us attractive. But remember, your worth and your identity is found in Christ, not in your appearance! Don't let marriage and romance be an ultimate thing! Christ loves you so much He decided to die for you on that cross. You are worth it for Him! If you are going through times of rejection, then read Isaiah 41:9! 

So here's a summary of what I believe a Christian should be asking when considering to marry someone:
1. Is the person a Christian? If not, it is incredibly unwise to go for them. Do not be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14)! And if they are Christians, are they pursuing holiness? Do they have a godly character? Be cautious not to just marry any Christian either!
2. Are they suited to you as a person? Do you click with them? Ask for wisdom concerning these things (James 1:5).
3. Are they attractive? Do not feel guilty for having preferences in this area! (Proverbs 5:18-19)

What does this mean for me?
1. To my knowledge the celebrity I like is not a Christian. Also the chances of meeting her are rather small, so while I find her beautiful on the outside, I should not get obsessed with her (or anyone else for that matter). Idolatry lurks at the door, Father please help!
2. My first and foremost standard for the inside will be to look upon women as Christ would. Secondly, I will look for things like similar ways of thinking, similar church background etc...But I am open to the possibility of something different to what I imagined.
3. Even though I might be ignoring girls around me because of my preferences, so what? We don't HAVE to get married. So if I don't marry anyone of them because I don't find them attractive, I have lost nothing. I still have Christ. 
Of course, I'd prefer to get married because I do struggle with singleness. But hey, surely my Father who's made Eve can put someone who I find attractive in my path out of the seven billion people on the planet (and hopefully it's mutual!). And if He doesn't, then I am confident He will give me the grace I need to go through life with the struggles of singleness. 2 Corinthians 12 greatly encourages me in this! It's one of those passages that returns again and again in my life:

"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

So, in the words of one of my best friends at uni "If she's godly and gorgeous then go!". Though he quoted that from someone else, it's still a good saying!


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