It’s my observation as one now married more than thirty years that two things are required for a successful marriage: commitment and compatibility. But I fear that out of fear we have given compatibility far more weight than it can carry as a predictor of marital health. And if the other person doesn’t match up to the 247 items on my compatibility checklist, then I’m not walking the aisle.
Now I get it – so many grew up watching mom and dad rip each other apart, and you vowed that wouldn’t happen to you. But you’re letting fear overrule your heart. Yes, compatibility matters. But commitment matters more.
I think back to Janis and I. Were we compatible when we married? Oh, yeah. Of course. She was a Christian and so was I. We were physically attracted to each other. We loved music, she sang and I played guitar. We a…we a…we were both Americans. We a…we a…umm… loved pizza.
Truth be told, on paper, in terms of compatibility, there were really more reasons for us not to get married than to get married. If we had taken one of those compatibility tests, Christian Mingle or eHarmony would have given us our money back. Janis was 27, I was 21 – that didn’t bode well for us. I was from Iowa, she was from New York. Out yonder, in Iowa, it’s a saying, “Can anything good come from New York?” We had loads of money in the bank. Piles of dollar bills. Probably 200 of them. I was two months away from graduating from college and had just been promoted in my job. From a dishwasher to bellboy at a pancake house. We dated for maybe six months before I proposed, and had a six month engagement. This is not the stuff of marriage legends.
Yet here we are 33 years later and counting, more in love than at the beginning, hanging on tight to Jesus and to each other. Don’t misunderstand me – preparation and compatibility are important in laying a good foundation for your marriage. Marriage will do nothing to fix any of the faultlines that are visible during your engagement. In fact, it will only widen them and make them more visible. Don’t like the way she spends money hand over fist? Don’t like the way he treats his mother? Mildly concerned about the fact that he has no ambition but to flit from one minimum wage job to another? Concerned about her drinking? Marriage will magnify each of these.
But when all is said and done, marriage is largely an act of faith. You join arms with a person who will change over time, as you face circumstances that will change over time, and neither of you knows all that’s coming.
If the twenty-year-old you could meet the forty-year-old you, the younger you would probably ask, “What the heck happened to you?” You don’t figure it all out and then get married, because it’s impossible to figure it all out. I’m so glad looking back that I didn’t journey through my twenties alone trying to ‘find myself’ first. It was much sweeter taking that journey with my babe (and I mean babe) in Christ.
I have watched couples who checked all the right boxes, and their marriage still crumbled. Even insuring that the other “is a Christian” is no guarantee of future results, because there are so many different kinds of “Christians” (weird ones, legalistic ones, angry ones, lazy ones). Just because they sit in a pew doesn’t mean they’re mature, stable, kind, disciplined, etc. I know many non-Christians whom I’d prefer my daughter to marry over many a Christian.
It’s commitment to each other that matters most. A commitment to love, honor and cherish through thick and thin. With a commitment rooted in Jesus, you’ll likely have more than enough to navigate your way through the adventures up ahead. The Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22), not “He who finds a good wife who matches all my criteria for what a wife ought to be…”