The conversation I referenced in yesterday’s post also had bits of “soul-mate-ism” in it.
Man alive, we younguns have such high standards for a mate these days! Well, let me qualify: for us, some things, like godliness, virtue, potential to be a great father/mother, love of God, commitment to Christ, spending habits, etc, are negotiable. If we meet a person that sufficiently sets off sparks in the gut, we can manage without all that. Afterall, missionary dating is all the rage! Perhaps your sweetie will grow a love for God as a result of dating you!
But there absolutely has to be this, this, this, ineffable quality about the person that just makes you come alive. When you meet this person, you just know. S/he completes you. S/he is “the one.” You can’t define it, but you know it when you….feel it. God made him/her just for you, and nothing could be more obvious.
Even if we don’t put it like that, that’s how many of us in my generation think, feel, and live.
Our culture has embraced a rather absurd notion that there is just one person who can, in the words immortalized by Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, “complete us.” This is a disastrous mindset with which to approach a lifelong marital decision.
The notion of a “soul mate” is actually pretty ancient. Well over two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato surmised that a perfect human being was tragically split in two, resulting in a race of creatures sentenced to spend the rest of their lives searching for that missing other who can complete them.
Despite such bizarre philosophical musing, the notion of a soul mate has deeply rooted itself in our culture, inspiring countless movies, novels, and top-40 songs. One Rutgers University study found that 94 percent of people in their twenties say that the first requirement in a spouse is someone who qualifies as a soul mate. Just as surprising, 87 percent think they’ll actually find that person “when they are ready.” A culture suspicious of God nevertheless has brazenly embraced some sort of forceful and intelligent destiny that brings two lovelorn souls together!
The real danger in this line of thinking is that many people mistake a storm of emotion as the identifying mark of their soul mate. How else can you identify “destiny”? Such individuals marry on an infatuation binge without seriously considering character, compatibility, life goals, family desires, spiritual health, and other important concerns. Then when the music fades and the relationship requires work, one or both partners suddenly discover that they were “mistaken”: this person must not be their soul mate after all! Otherwise, it wouldn’t be so much work. Next they panic. Their soul mate must still be out there! Such people can’t get to divorce court fast enough, lest someone steal their “one true soul mate” meant only for them. When we get married for trivial reasons, we tend to seek divorce for trivial reasons.
In a biblical view, there is not “one right choice” for marriage, but rather good and bad choices. We are encouraged to use wisdom, not destiny, as our guide when choosing a marital partner. There is no indication that God creates “one” person for us to marry. This is because Christians believe that God brings the primary meaning into our lives. Marriage — though wonderful — is still secondary.
Shortly after the conversation I mentioned above, someone, who just found out I was engaged, asked me if I had found “the one.” My response was that I really don’t believe in “The One.” There are a number of people out there I or anyone else is compatible with, and I don’t have this huge pressure and expectation of discovering “The One” out there in the cosmos. Wisdom, not flying sparks, should be the guide.
She looked concerned for me as I said that. Upon reflection, I had to chuckle at her reaction. She can rest easy: my fiance and I are madly in love with each other, we are prayerfully putting Christ at the center of our relationship, and we are following His lead. We are simply taking our relationship cues from the Bible, not the culture. I don’t think this means we are doomed to a love-less, spice-less, business-like marriage arrangement.