One of the best books I have read in the last five years, and one that has undoubtedly been influential in my current attitude to life is the book God is a Matchmaker (Prince & Prince, 1986).
I came across it while attending the Methodist church down my street; their library was ancient and yet I found the most amazingly relevant books in that collection. Reading this book was like taking an ibuprofen to soothe raging muscle pain – the muscle could or could not have been my heart, I cannot recall. All I remember is that it was a relief, it took away the burden that society and family had been steadily increasing on my shoulders on the subject of marriage.
I’m sure most of you have heard one version or another of what a single man or woman must do in order to cross onto the seemingly greener pastures of marriage. I have heard many different versions myself; ie. God will guide you to find the right partner-but you need to get out there and actually do the looking, another one said God brought Eve to Adam and presented her as his wife, therefore a man must wait passively for God to bring his wife to him while the woman waits to be presented (both not dating around), others say there is only one rib (woman) for each man and if he doesn’t find her he will remain in failing relationships because he is with someone that belongs to someone else, some say there is no such thing as soul mates or ‘the one’ and that one must simply find someone that they get along with and make it work. I was given a book by a relative called Waiting for Roses or something like that, about a woman who was waiting for God to bring her a husband, she felt that God had told her to wait on Him for the specific person, she got married at 45. I did not read the book after hearing her story; I am not keen on waiting that long.
So what can we make of this? I am relating to the many men and women in their late 20’s and 30’s both Christian and otherwise, because we have all been socialized in one way or another to follow a particular method of dating-courting-whatever you wish to call it. I don’t know about you, but I got so confused with all the well-meaning ‘advice’ from all these sources that I stopped listening altogether. That is until I came across this book, and my mind was firmly made up. Please bear in mind that this is a purely Biblical view and instructs the person that is completely sold to the Bible as fact. However if that is not you, there may be something that you can pick out that you could relate to.
Basically, this book is based on an instruction Paul gave to the Romans in the New Testament;
‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Romans 12vs2
What is God’s perfect will for you (or perfect plan)? Well according to this verse the one way to find that out is by choosing to go against the pattern of this world and allow your mind to be renewed by Him. In simple terms, this could be your choice to not sleep with anyone outside marriage, or choosing not to date based on the latest Hollywood guidelines and stick only to the guidelines that the Bible gives. They suggest that if marriage is a part of God’s plan (His will) for you then you can trust Him to work out every detail around it, both for you and the future partner that He has in mind for you; God gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.
They give four simple guidelines that a single-unmarried person can follow; these are attitudes that will help guide the choices you make – right actions flow from right attitudes
- Your attitude towards marriage
Marriage is something that God came up with; no one was there to give Him the idea so it was His plan that marriage should exists in the first place. This was a hard fact to face for me, coming from a broken home like so many out there; I had come to view marriage as a mistake, something that should not be attempted if you plan on living a happy-heartache free life. This book points out that the human marriage is an earthly counterpart of the relationship between Christ and His church, based on Ephesians 5vs25-32 that speaks of husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church. We need to look at marriage with reverence and humility, acknowledging that it is not man’s invention – but Gods’ and therefore He knows why He came up with it and what purpose it serves His in His plans.
Here, you need to make a decision (as I had to do eventually) to make your mind up on marriage; is it a simple thoughtless part of life where you can choose a random person that ticks all your boxes – and as soon as the proverbial ‘spark’ is gone you get divorced – or move onto the next person. Is marriage about making yourself happy and ‘being in love’ or is it the self-sacrifice that would lead one to a cross? Are people dispensable or is it about accepting someone with all their faults as well as good qualities, even to the point of taking the blame for their mistakes and paying for it with your own life? There are some serious questions I had to ask myself here, and I had to draw a line in the sand to say I will never again look at marriage the way secular society looks at it, or the way I looked at it through my own negative experiences while growing up. Now I continuously chose to perceive it only through God’s eyes, the originator of marriage Himself.
- Your attitude towards self
The idea here is to have a healthy sense of self-worth; something I know many people battle with in our generation. This would mean choosing to let go of past hurts and failures, and accepting yourself as a new creation, someone that has been given a second chance and whose past has been wiped clean. It means cultivating an ever expanding realization of what we have become in the family of God; by hearing and reading the Word of God and being transformed into the likeness of Christ. When you establish a proper attitude toward yourself based on your relationship to God as your Father, your sense of self-worth is bound to change. Again, major challenge here for a lot of people, father-less generation and daddy issues make a lot of people’s attitude towards fatherhood more negative than positive. Yes, it is an ongoing process for me to see God as the ultimate Father, constantly reminding myself that He is not human, therefore cannot be like any fallible human father out there. And again there is a choice to make here that is to trust that God’s fatherhood is not like any you’ve ever seen or known, and to trust that the plans He makes for you are coming from His love for you. You can choose to see God as daddy, and therefore listen to His instruction (more than Hollywood or your society’s norms?)
- Your attitude towards others
Another tough choice in our generation; choosing to follow that ‘troublesome’ verse in the New Testament;
‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.’ Philippians 2vs3
Most of the world lives in a hedonistic western culture that encourages self-importance and self-satisfaction above all, preaching the exact opposite of this verse which is ‘do whatever makes you happy’ or ‘if it makes you happy then its right’ and ‘if it doesn’t make you happy then it’s not right for you.’
Consideration, sensitivity, grace shown through appreciation and thankfulness that need constant cultivation; and the appraisal of the other instead of the self is what is required in order to truly love someone, not forgetting humility, self-sacrifice and long-suffering (perseverance) which are some of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Again, we can refer to Christ, clearly going to the cross was not something that made Him happy, He didn’t skip happily to Golgotha to suffer a horrifying death – actually Matthew 26 from 36 to 45 show that He was ‘sorrowful and troubled’ the night He was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane; He was so troubled that He prayed three times if there was no other way for mankind to be saved (‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken away from me…’). However, Jesus did not have His own interest as His ultimate goal, that is why He ended all those prayers with ‘yet not as I will, but as you will.’ He chose not to feed His own ego despite being the Son of God who could have chosen to wipe out all his enemies with a single word. That is the attitude being spoken of here, realising that life is bigger than us, and that other people feature in God’s plans therefore the way we treat them really matters. So no matter the situation – we should really be able to put the other first with their needs and well being before our own especially if we dare to call them our spouse. That was and is the heart of Jesus, if He could do it with a human heart, surely we can as well.
- Your attitude towards parents
This last attitude should be straightforward, but rarely is it heeded. (Parents, in this case refers to whomever raised you.)
Ephesians 6vs 1-3 says that if you want life to go well with you – honour your parents. A proper attitude towards parents is essential for God’s blessings on any person’s life. Yet, as already mentioned our current father-less generation that is in many circumstances raised by stressed and under-supported mothers, or families where drugs and alcohol assisted in the childrearing process, children that were abandoned, just some of many examples as to why ‘honouring your parents’ is not always an attractive concept.
Yet again, there is a serious choice to make. The issue here is not simply about honouring the people responsible for you existence, it’s about submission. While obedience is an act, submission is an attitude of heart; it says – I have my own will (plans), but I consciously put it aside in order to follow yours. Wow, what a challenge! Yet it is in the very act of submission to your parent/s regardless of what they are or have done/not done to you, that paves the way for God to intervene. I’m not referring to submission in the sense of doing whatever they tell you to, or blind obedience; rather it is accepting the authority that this person has in your life, accepting and even acknowledging openly that authority regardless of whether they use it or not. In my own case, I read this book at a time where I was trying to find answers for my father’s absence from my life; trying to understand why he was not around, was it me? Something I did-or me personally? It was painful and bitter, and I struggled to forgive him, and certainly did not accept that he had any authority in my life – he wasn’t even in it. After some time (years I think) I was able to say, ‘yes I have a father, he’s not perfect, but he’s the only father I have. I will honour him, respect him, and forgive every hurt I have had because of him.’ I released him from the prison in my heart not because I’m a wise self-actualized person, but because God asks it of me.
I don’t know what your parents were like, just know that you are not called to judge them, God has that covered, you are called to honour them for your own sake – so that all things will go well with you and that you live long in the land. How many people live long happy lives while carrying bitterness and hatred in their hearts? How many people learn from the mistakes of their parents when they hate and disregard them? We just have to look around at society today to see that that is never the case, instead we repeat the same mistakes our parents did, out of spite or some form of revenge maybe, but you have to admit it whatever culture or religion you come from, honouring one’s parents will affect the quality of your own life.
So, taking on the challenge of choosing God’s way above your way is a daunting task. However, it is not the only thing you have to do. The book concludes with this thought, it is important for every unmarried Christian to face the issue of whether celibacy may be God’s Will (plan) for them. A person whose mind is taken up continually with thoughts of marriage may miss God’s leading in some other area, and even take the wrong course in life. However, a person who has settled this issue to their own satisfaction has an inner peace of mind that makes it easier to discern God’s will in other matters too. Give yourself wholeheartedly to serving God in your present condition, and leave the future in His hands.
Your attitude of quiet trust will keep you open to any direction the Lord may intend to give you further down the road.
If you would like to read this book or reviews of it, it is available on google books as well as other internet sources (ie. Amazon). I have only taken out from it what spoke the loudest to me; it may speak differently to you.
Prince, D. & Prince, R. (1986) God is a Matchmaker. New Jersey: Flemming H. Revell Company