What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp
Once upon a time, there was a college freshman. She hoped, as most girls do, that she would find her prince charming in college. She was not sure what he would be like, but she pictured him being tall, a few years older, and maybe African-American. Her first year of college was tons of fun. She made made new friends with whom she had game nights, went on late-night taco runs, and just had an all-around good time with. One of these friends was a boy who she viewed as almost a little brother. He was four inches shorter than her, a year younger, and about as white as you could get. Suffice it to say, it never even crossed her mind (or his!) that he had romantic potential.
Fast forward a few months, the freshman and the boy have their first real one-on-one conversation in which they talk about more than games or friends. She hears his heart for ministry and his aspirations to be a pastor someday. She comes away from the conversation thinking, “Wow. He is a really awesome guy. We really have similar hearts for ministry.”
All of a sudden, she begins to hope that they will bump into each other at the library or that he will message her on Skype. She is a little confused as these things didn’t used to matter to her before. Then she starts noticing his cute eyes and adorable smile. Before you know it, she has a huge crush on the guy that weeks before was just a buddy. Needless to say, this is the story of how I started liking my husband. And the rest is history!
Why do I share this story? I share this story because I want my readers to know that I know how real physical attraction is. I know that it does play a role in relationships. I know firsthand how fun it is to feel your heart race when he sits close to you or holds your hand for the first time. I wanted to write a follow-up post to my other article clarifying what I was getting at.
I am not saying that I have all the answers or that my story is (or should be) the “norm.” The Lord works in a variety of ways to bring people together. Sometimes He uses initial attraction to draw people to each other and sometimes “love comes softly.” I wrote that post because I want to challenge you to think critically about relationships.
Since I wrote that blog post, I have been reading articles and searching Scripture to see what the Savior has to say about the question: What role does physical attraction have in a godly relationship?
A friend of mine sent me an article from the Boundless website. Author Scott Croft addresses the problem behind emphasizing that you must be attracted to someone:
The fundamental theological problem with the “attraction-as-foundation” approach to dating and marriage is that the approach grossly distorts the biblical definitions of “love” and “marriage.” What’s the big question most people agonize over with regard to finding a spouse: “How do I know if I’ve found the one?” As my friend Michael Lawrence pointed out in his article “Stop Test-Driving Your Girlfriend,” “the unstated goal of the question is ‘How do I know if she’s the one … for me.'”
And that’s essentially selfish. I don’t mean that such an approach involves malice or the intent to hurt anyone. I simply mean that such an approach is self-centered. It conceives of finding a spouse from the standpoint of what will be most enjoyable for me based on my tastes and desires. What will I receive from marriage to this or that person?
And that is the point that I am trying to make. Had I chosen my spouse based upon what I thought was good for me, I would have never have married my husband. I had something totally different in mind than the Lord did.
Girls, we worry that we will never find that person that makes our heart race. Guys, you worry that you won’t find the girl who looks the way you want or has the personality you are seeking. But that is not what it is about. Ultimately, it boils down to finding our satisfaction in Christ. When we are satisfied in Christ, we have the mindset of finding a life partner whom we can serve with and whom we will serve for the rest of our lives. It is much bigger than what we want or what we think we need.
Paul David Tripp writes:
…Iove is fundamentally deeper and more active than some warm, romantic feeling of affection toward someone to whom you are attracted. It is not some generalized response of happiness when you are with this particular person. No, love is a specific commitment of the heart to a specific person that causes you to give yourself to a specific lifestyle or care that requires you to be willing to make sacrifices with that person’s good in view. Love is never general, and it never remains in the realm of feelings. Love desires, love thinks, love chooses, love decides, love acts, and love speaks in an ongoing, day-by-day commitment to the welfare of another. Real love is concrete, specific, and active.
All this to say, (I know this article is much longer than two minutes!) we need to change our focus from ourselves and what we want to what the Lord wants in a dating and marriage relationship. As I was saying before, even though you are initially attracted to your spouse, someday they will not look like what they did when they were twenty. Even though you love their personality, there are times when you guys will clash and annoy one another. This is why a godly relationship needs to go beyond attraction. You must realize that you are marrying this person “for better or for worse” and you must be committed to actively and specifically loving this person.
So what role then does physical attraction play in a godly relationship? In the article, “Brother, You’re Like a Six,” the author writes that it is a kindness of God that He gives us physical attraction. He did not have to create us to be attracted to one another. We could all have had arranged marriages. It is a gift from the Lord to be enjoyed (within the appropriate contexts). He graciously gives us the freedom to select spouses. Brothers and sisters, use this freedom wisely to choose a spouse who you can honor Christ with!
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