I won’t recreate the list here; check it out for yourself. This list includes “He is a practicing believer,” “God is the center of his life,” and “He has integrity and does not put himself in tempting situations.”
This is a demanding list: “He pursues and loves you passionately” but also “He is humble and can admit when he is wrong.”
My husband and I would never have gotten married if we had required that we already possessed these twelve ideals, and we have been happily married now for 36 years. We were working on many of those supposed “non-negotiables” at the time we met. However, some of them—like “doesn’t put himself in tempting situations”—neither of us was working on at all!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think all of these are wonderful ideals to shoot for. And God bless the young woman who finds a man who fulfills all of these right now! But I think we are all works-in-progress, and realistically, I believe we don’t display all these wonderful characteristics all at once.
Wolfe makes a very good point at the end: God surprises us.
This is exactly what Pope Francis frequently tells us: God is a God of perpetual surprises, he wrote in Lumen Fidei. In a conversation when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he described the religious experience as a surprise: “the astonishment of meeting someone who has been waiting for you all along.” And, in his recent interview in America Magazine, he reiterates this point:
“God is always first and makes the first move. God is a bit like the almond flower of your Sicily, Antonio, which always blooms first. … God is always a surprise, so you never know where and how you will find him. You are not setting the time and place of the encounter with him. You must, therefore, discern the encounter.”
You have to discern the encounter.
I met my future husband in Hegel class. I was the smart one taking copious notes in my heavily underlined copy of The Phenomenology of Spirit. In the middle of a heavy, mind-bending discussion, I glance up to see the cute guy across the room wink at me.
A good friend of ours was pursued by her future husband for weeks (perhaps longer) while she held out. She refused to succumb to his winning personality, because she wanted to marry an Irishman. When she finally grudgingly gave in and met his parents, she discovers: surprise! He’s full-blooded Irish!
If a young man or woman has a list of twelve non-negotiables that any match must already possess before he or she can go out on a date, it may be hard to discern the encounter. They will not be ready for the surprise. As Pope Francis cautioned: “If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing.”
Better than having a ready-made list, be a man or woman of intense prayer. Then, when God surprises you with the one who has been waiting for you all along, you will discern the encounter.