Countless times I have sat across the table from young men and women who have asked me the question, “How can I be confident that this is the person I am supposed to marry? How will I know when I know?” It is a great question. There are several ways to answer this (more of which are included in my book #Wasn’tPlanningAShamelessPlugThereAndYetHereWeAre). But let’s examine here four signs that your relationship is ready for this next step of commitment.
SENSE OF COMMITMENT
First, you need to see in you both an internal sense of mutual commitment. You want to discover in yourself and in the other person a growing resolve to stay even when it is hard. In Song of Solomon, the beloved says to her man, “Set me as a seal upon your heart…For love is as strong as death.” How is love like death? They are alike in their strength. When death takes hold of something it does not let go. Love is like this. How do you know real love? It grabs hold and says, “I will never let go.” There is a deep sense of commitment. A resolve to stay even when it requires the discomfort of working through problems.
Song of Solomon says it this way, “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of this house, he would be utterly despised.” How do you know the commitment is there for you? It overcomes trials. No waters can quench it. And it survives temptations. No enticement can move it. How do you know you’ve got the right one? Because you see within yourself and within the other person a commitment to stay that no trial can shake and no temptation can dislodge.
SKILL OF COMMUNICATION
The second sign is a growing skill in communication. Proverbs 12 declares, “There is one who’s rash words are like thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” When you disagree, do your words become weapons? Do you go into attack mode? Are you willing to hurt the other person so you can win the fight? Or, even when your feelings are hurt, are you able to speak words to one another that are wise and bring healing and health to the relationship? You need the skill of communication if this thing is going to work. Proverbs 12 goes on to say, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” You want to live in a home where words are used to uplift spirits, not break them. If either of you have not gained this skill, then it is not time to enter into a forever commitment.
The third sign your relationship is ready for marriage is that it can survive a moment of confession. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” I believe that there comes a moment when you are coming close to marrying somebody, that you will need to look at each other and say, “Before we link our lives forever, I need you to know about some of the broken things in me and some of the broken things in my past.” Let me warn you: this will be a hard conversation. For some this may involve talking about past abuse you have suffered, and how it might impact that way you approach conflict, money or sex. For all of us it will involve confessing sins that we have committed.
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Some of you may balk at this. Isn’t that just my business? Why would I want to share that with them? There is much more to say here, but one direct benefit you will discover is that powerful healing can occur within you when you can share with someone even the most broken and sad parts of you and they can say, “I am sorry that happened.” “I forgive you.” “I love you.” “I still want you.” Confession and repentance open the doors for deep healing. It can also greatly increase bonding. Not only does confession and mercy knit together some of the broken spaces inside of you, it can knit the two of you together in a stronger union. When you realize that this person already knows the worst about you and still loves you, it will greatly increase your confidence that your relationship has what it takes to survive any storm. Trust deepens. And you allow the other person the opportunity to love you with a Christ-like love. Jesus Christ loved us at our worst. Sacrificed himself for us when we were our worst. And He continues to patiently forgive us when we are at our worst. Christian marriage is meant to reflect this kind of Christ-like love. “Forgive one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” You want a husband that’s like Jesus, who grabbed us at our dirtiest and loved us. You want a wife like Jesus who will see you in all of your brokenness and extend grace towards you anyway. You need to see this before you say “yes” to a marriage covenant.
Before we leave this subject, let me strongly encourage you: Do not initiate a conversation about delicate subjects such as sexual abuse without first consulting wise counsel. Let a trusted voice help you think through how to talk about your past in a constructive way.
This brings us to our last point.
SIGN OFF FROM THE COMMUNITY
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The last thing you need is the support of your community. Proverbs 11 says “Where there’s no guidance a people falls, but in the abundance of counselors, there is safety.” You don’t need everybody around you giving you advice when you get married. But you do need counselors. Consider seeking out a few healthy married couples and some good friends who love you enough to be honest with you. Give them a front row seat to your relationship. In the Song of Solomon four voices are heard: the lover, the beloved, God, and the beloved’s friends. There is a principle there: if you want to be her lover, you’ve got to get with her friends. With many counselors, victory is sure. When the chorus of the wise sound their approval, you can cross that threshold into marriage with confidence.
Ben Stuart is the new pastor of Passion City Church, in Washington D.C. He comes from Breakaway Ministries, where he served as Executive Director for 11 years – it’s a weekly Bible study attended by thousands of college students on the campus of Texas A&M. His passion is speaking to the youth on how to navigate life and love in an age where it’s more difficult than ever to find the right mate and maintain our Christian values.
Single, Dating, Engaged, Married is a topic close to his heart having lived in the single stage longer than most, and having walked alongside thousands of students at Texas A&M as a first-person witness to the dramatic need for biblical guidance when it comes to finding not just a partner, but the right partner.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/MichaelBlann
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Publication date: September 14, 2017