Three Goals in Dating That Lead to a Successful Marriage, Part 1: Being a Mature Person

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On February 20, 2016, I had the unique experience of officiating the marriage of Matt Reed and my daughter, Joy. As part of the ceremony, I gave voice to what I believed about both of them.

One, each sought to be a mature person prior to meeting the other.

Two, each sought to find a mature person.

And, three, each planned on being committed to Christ beyond their relationship, doing marriage motivated by a sense of mission.

Because of these three facets, I expressed my confidence that their marriage would succeed God’s way.

I also have confidence that anyone who is mature, marries someone mature, and who together is motivated by Christ’s mission for them, will succeed in their marriage.

Being A Mature Person

What does it mean to be a mature person? In broad terms, it means being Christlike during trials and temptations.

There is more to maturity than how we respond to trials and temptations, but one must begin here. To be mature in all areas outside of trials and temptations only to fail during such sufferings and seductions is to be anything but mature. The person who has matured always starts with his character flaws. Edifices do not collapse due to structural strengths.

Think of Job’s trials.

Think of Jesus and His temptations.

Trials and temptations are the two areas that most reveal our inner choices to respond either maturely or immaturely.

Said another way, self-discovery comes during trials and temptations. The absence of trials and temptations does not allow us to truly know ourselves. We come to know ourselves when faced with suffering and seduction. We see what is in our soul during these painful seasons or potentially pleasurable moments.

For example, we know overwhelming bitterness or paralyzing panic during a trial is not spiritually healthy. Nor is it healthy to give into habitual and controlling lust and covetousness during temptations.

Who among us sees the chronically angry or fearful person as mature?

Who sees the person addicted to pornography or shopping as mature?

This does not mean we lack empathy toward such individuals, only that these character flaws control and dominate them. A little leaven leavens the whole.

Each of us must be honest with ourselves and take steps to end those behaviors that hurt the heart of Christ, sear our conscience, and discredit us before others.

A major sign of personal maturity is adhering to the axiom “My response is my responsibility.”

This means that we do not justify ourselves and blame others for our wrong choices. Instead, we own up to the wrong responses during a trial and temptation. We confess, “My bad.”

We then better prepare for the next trial or temptation with a commitment to trust and obey God no matter what. As the famous hymn declares, “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus."

We know that distrust and disobedience toward our loving Lord sabotages His best for us and keeps us immature.

Will we fail? If we do, we begin again and again and again (Proverbs 24:16).

This begs the question each of us must ask ourselves: During trials and temptations, will we trust and obey the Lord? Will we seek to respond like Jesus would respond? Will we be mature, as 1 Corinthians 14:20 says: "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking . . . but in your thinking be mature"?

Joy’s Prayer Journal

I love what Joy wrote in her journal eight years before she met Matt. She took a hard look at herself and created goals about the person she believed God called her to be. This list is a great example of someone who intends to be a mature person.

These are the kind of positive and proactive steps all of us should take that prevent us from failing during trials and temptations. I shared this list with the hundreds of people who attended her wedding and everyone was blessed.

What I think I can give to a husband:

- Friendship

- All of my heart

- Unconditional respect for who he is

- A cheerleader

- Laughter and smiles

- Intensity

- Ability to let go of things

- A desire to live this life only for Jesus

- A desire to give

- A desire to minister to him and the ways he needs

- A commitment to not give up on a marriage and to always try to give

- A longing for wisdom

- Children

- A desire to learn to be a good mother and hopefully grandmother

- A semi-organized household

- Forgiveness

- Honesty

- A headache

- Directness and clarity

- Discernment

- Prayer for him and his calling

- A fun life

- Trying my hardest to be godly as I attempt all of the above

I remarked during the wedding, "Joy, thanks for your example to all of us in wanting to be this kind of mature person. What a tribute to you. Many of us avoid making such a list lest we fall short and feel guilty. But you were not afraid but bold in asking God to help you become this kind of individual."

I also expressed: "Thanks for not only waiting on God but speaking to people across the country on what it means to be single and faithful while living in the anticipation of marriage. Through your videos and blogs on relationships, countless people have been greatly helped."

Joy’s Husband

As for Matt, the man Joy married, one of his groomsmen said, "For as long as Matt and I have been friends, a central belief we've shared is the importance of being 'intentional,' particularly in relationships. When we became roommates, a key part of our intent was . . . to help each other continue to become the kind of men that truly amazing women would want to walk through life with.”

Indeed, the first and foremost focus must be on our own maturation.

Looking at Our Strengths and Weaknesses

Here’s a simple question we need to ask ourselves: Are we neglecting to develop our strengths as we ought and instead allowing our weaknesses to habitually manifest themselves during trials and temptations?

For example, as a strength we have discernment but as a weakness we have fits of anger. Thus, during a conflict over the bill and service of a plumbing company, instead of using our discernment to recognize the office worker on the phone intends no ill-will, we go off half-cocked and curse them as though they are to blame for our frozen and cracked water pipe that took half a day to fix.

Unfortunately, over the years, our strong muscle of discernment has atrophied and our knee-jerk reaction to get ticked off repeats itself weekly for one reason or another. The plumbing company is one in a line of many who cause us to lose it emotionally.

It need not be the plumbing company. It can be an emotional meltdown in our family over a request to forgo a weekend excursion with friends to ski in order to visit with the grandparents who unexpectedly announced flying in for the weekend.

Sadly, we have ignored our discrediting character flaws and immaturity. Yet, we keep dreaming about and pursuing the Ideal One who we believe will fully empathize with our fits of anger (because of our horrible circumstances like frozen pipes or visiting grandparents) and who will never show any fits of anger toward us (because of their wonderful disposition and empathy toward our circumstances).

An Ah-Ha Moment

I often ask, “If you met the perfect person, why would that perfect person want to marry someone like you?” I do not intend to be cruel but to burst the hollow bubble that some live in. They have surrendered to a misguided thought process. They are forever hunting for the nonexistent quintessential spouse.

Not a few people have an ah-ha moment. “That’s true. I never thought about it this way. Why would a perfect person want to live with me?"

Our Wrong Angle

How do we view these matters? Too often we go about this from the wrong angle. We are consumed with finding our soulmate far and above zeroing in on our character qualities that need to be deep in our own soul that another finds attractive and predictable.

Isn’t it strange that all of us expect to find a person who demonstrates a plethora of appealing attributes but we shy away from expecting this of ourselves?

Discussion Questions

  1. Emerson shared his “confidence that anyone who is mature, marries someone mature, and who together is motivated by Christ’s mission for them, will succeed in their marriage.” Do you agree or disagree? Explain. Have you seen an exception to this?

  2. What makes it so difficult for you to respond with maturity during times of trials and temptations?

  3. Have you ever made a list similar to Joy’s about being the person you believe God has called you to be? If so, how did simply writing it down help you mature in those ways? If not, was it because of the difficulty you knew you would come by if you tried to become a more mature person?

  4. How would you answer the question, “If you met the perfect person, why would that perfect person want to marry someone like you?” How does that motivate you to focus more on your own maturity?

-Dr. E