What are your thoughts on how a person can evaluate the spiritual maturity of another before they even consider a date? What a great question! I am sure many readers will be encouraged to know this is a priority for someone else in our extreme makeover culture. I have always been struck by something Boaz said to Ruth in their first conversation: We can make the same observations today by watching how someone serves others in the church.
I say this because one of the biggest impediments to discernment, in my opinion, is a form of dating narcissism. This is that giddy time early in a relationship when you don't really know too much about the other person, but there is the tantalizing possibility of someone else finding you irresistibly attractive.
Dating narcissism is the self-love that agrees with the potential of someone else's high opinion of you! You are an incredible gift to the opposite sex, so it's a good thing someone else has finally seen this and is willing to treat you like the Special One that you are.
Unfortunately, this high opinion of yourself often clouds your judgment of another's behavior and character. Now, I am saying this partly tongue-in-cheek, but there is a grain of truth here. That rush of pent-up emotion in the beginning of a relationship "a date — at last! It can carry us a long way before we start to soberly notice the foundational issues of character in the other person's life.
So I hope the following list of qualities may prove to be helpful and fruitful in your future relationships. While there are some specific and different things Scripture requires of men and women, there are many qualities we are all called to demonstrate: Discipleship, as evidenced in consistent personal devotions grounded in the Bible and prayer, a growing knowledge of God's Word, and a willingness to make Scripture the plumb line for one's thoughts, deeds, and behavior Psalms 1, 19, and Humility, as evidenced in a willingness to listen more than we talk and to restrain our defensiveness and anger James 1: Accountability, as evidenced by a clear understanding of the doctrine of indwelling sin and a willingness to confess sin and seek observations and input from others James 5: Servanthood, as evidenced by our efforts to reach out to others without partiality and to emulate our Lord and Savior by joyfully taking on the lowly tasks and burdens of others James 2: Thankfulness and joy, as evidenced by our worship of God, peacefulness with others, and restraint of gossip, slander and backbiting James 3: This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a start.
For men, I would encourage you to consider the feminine qualities listed in Proverbs 31, Titus 2 and 1 Peter 3 when you are interested in a woman. These are specific virtues that godly women are to cultivate over the course of their lives, virtues that last far longer than outward appeal.
For women, I would encourage us to consider the leadership and benevolent qualities of godly men listed in 1 Timothy 3: Where are the areas on which we should concentrate for change? Are there any areas in which we are blind to our own sin as we relate to others? After examining the planks in our own eyes, we are ready to consider the maturity of others and whether we are seeing them clearly.
This is where prayerful, supportive counsel of those God has put in our lives family, friends, pastors is invaluable. In all of this evaluation, however, we must not lose sight of the grace extended to us to change that has also been extended to others.
We are not to look for perfection, but for the trajectory of a life lived for the glory of God. Hopefully we will be used by the Lord in marriage to spur one another on as the Holy Spirit conforms us degree by degree to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Trusting God with a Hope Deferred. Carolyn will periodically answer Crosswalk.