After spending the last decade surrounded by people in their twenties, I’ve discovered the topic that occupies the majority of their thoughts is relationships. They think about how to find the right person to marry and they wonder whether the person they are dating is their soul mate.
He introduced it in The Symposium [affiliate link] where one of his characters tells the story of how humans originally had four hands and four feet, and a single head with two faces. But the god Zeus feared the might and strength of these humans and split them in half, leaving them to spend the rest of their lives searching for their other half or “soul mate” to complete them.
When I overhear discussions of how to find a soul mate, a frequent theme that comes up is compatibility. Does the person have the same values and outlook on life as I do? Does he or she have the same interests and hobbies as me? Does the person make me happy and make me feel good about myself? Are we headed in the same direction and want the same things in life? Do I like his or her friends and family? The list of questions goes on.
Well, I have a bit of news for you: If you are looking for a soul mate to complete you, you are looking for the wrong person to marry. If you are looking for someone who will be compatible with you, you are focusing on the wrong quality.
“But doesn’t God want to bless me and make me happy?” you might object. Yes, God does want to bless you and fulfill you. And if you do get married, then God can use your marriage to bless you and make you happy.
But God never intended for your spouse to complete you or be the ultimate source of your happiness. Actually, God’s plan is that your spouse will cause you trouble and at times make you unhappy.
Mark Gungor, pastor and author of Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage [affiliate link] writes,
“God wants to kill you. Not the physical you, but the selfish you. Jesus taught us that if we don’t die to our selfish nature, we will never be able to experience all the blessings that God wants to bestow on us. Well, if there was ever an institution designed to kill the selfish you, it’s marriage. In fact, it is virtually impossible to succeed at marriage if you don’t learn how to let the selfish part of you die.”
God’s plan is to help us become less self-centered and more selfless. In marriage, you have daily opportunities to learn and practice putting your spouse’s needs above your own. It doesn’t come naturally.
Olive and I have been married for almost five years. Early on in our marriage I learned a lesson on the difficulty of being selfless. There was one night when we had just gotten settled into bed, all cozy under our comforter.
I was just about to fall asleep and drift into dreamland when I heard Olive’s voice in the darkness: “Tim? I think the hallway light is still on. We should turn it off.” We? I thought to myself. It’s so confusing when she uses the word “we” when she actually means “you” – especially late at night. And if she noticed the light, why couldn’t she get up and turn it off?
Right then, I knew I had a choice. I could either put my needs first and pretend to be asleep, or I could put my wife’s needs first and drag myself out of bed to turn off the darn hallway light.
Being in relationship with Olive has made me realize how self-centered I can be, which surprised me, because I thought I was a pretty kind and considerate guy to begin with. But really, it was very natural to think about myself first. Through my marriage with Olive I am slowly thinking a little less about my needs and more about hers.
That night, I did get out of bed to turn off the hallway light. It was a small win in my journey towards selflessness.
Here’s the beautiful thing about marriage: it shapes you to become a better person: a person less consumed with your own happiness and more able to rejoice in making others happy.
So when you are looking for the right person to marry, don’t look for someone that will make you happy. Look for someone that you can make happy.
[This article was originally posted on Converge Magazine]
photo credit: gerlos