I was sitting with a small group of teenage Christian girls. Out of curiosity I asked them, “How many of you keep a list of the things you want in a husband?”
Every one of them raised their hand. Their unanimity tickled and surprised me. What is that universal element in a girl’s heart that makes her scratch out the famous “quality list”?
I am continually reminded that there is no recipe for marriage. But as a girl I kept a three-page list of husbandly qualities ranked in categories of “Fundamental and Essential,” “Sort of Important,” and “Flighty and Trifling.”
My list reads like a cross-examination: “Will I be able to look at you and say that there’s no money and we’ll have to live on peanut butter and jelly?” “Are you philosophical?” “Do you mind the smell of garlic?” “Can you read Greek?”
But actual marriage is nothing like list keeping. You don’t get to demand your chosen qualities. You don’t get to select them from a kitchen cabinet and stir them up in a bowl. Marriage, the real event, smacks much more of the miraculous. A match strikes. And when it strikes, you do not marry and adore an idea or a composite of qualities. You marry and adore a man, who in every case replaces the dream you have been cultivating.
I sat with my best friend over tea several weeks ago. She said, “We’ve been told since we were little to find someone who can fill our needs. Will you protect me? Will you provide for me? Will you fulfill me?” We face the problem together, each frantically counting down the less-than-three-month span till our weddings. We each watch our childhood homes roll between our feet like marbles on a tilted floor. They are vanishing from view. We don’t know what lies ahead.
What she said next struck me deeply: “We don’t know what’s coming next. But our Provider is still the same. Nothing has changed.”
She’s right. I woke up every day this week in the lovely Pennsylvania home of my fiancé’s parents. Remnants of Jonathan’s childhood were arranged throughout the room: his Lego collection, color coded and copious, his electric piano, his sleeping guitar cases, his childhood music books.
Jonathan was home for spring break. Downstairs, he was washing the breakfast dishes and philosophizing about King Solomon. “He was a great King who gave us a book of poetry,” he said. “It’s like the whole Bible. A great King gave us a love letter, when there was no real reason to.”
He continued washing the dishes and began to sing. Jonathan would live on peanut butter and jelly if it meant living with me. He loves garlic. He can read Greek. But he is much more than any recipe I could have generated.
As I move into marriage, my Provider is the same. And He has given me better than I dreamed.