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I am just starting a relationship with a girl who I have been friends with for a few years. How long would you suggest I be in the relationship before asking her to be my wife?


That can be a difficult question to answer, because it depends upon the circumstances of each, individual couple. Moreover, the Bible doesn't provide a direct word that tells us how long a man must wait until he asks a woman to marry him. Things would be much easier for mankind if the Bible said in some passage, "After 3 months of courtship, if the man feels a swelling love in his bosom for the lady of his choosing, he must ask her to marry him and she must say yes." Sadly, that passage does not exist. What we do have given to us in scripture, however, are principles that can offer guidelines of application to help us make the right decisions about relationships and eventually marriage. I personally do not claim to have all the answers when it comes to singleness, dating, courting and marriage, but perhaps I can provide some examples of practical application with these biblical prinicples from my own personal experience.

First of all, my wife and I always tell single people to pay close attention to their friends of the opposite sex. The Bible reveals plenty about the importance of friendship, and the many passages that address what true friendship entails can offer insight to the type of man or woman a person would want to marry. I always find myself becoming perplexed when a single guy or gal tells me they would never think about marrying a particular person, because he/she are "just friends." In all honesty, I believe that excuse is a disingenuious way of saying, "I ain't attracted to him or her for such and such a reason." Believe me, people want to marry their friends. When a guy or a gal tells me they could never marry so and so, because he or she is "just a friend," are they really suggesting that they wish to marry a semi-stranger? I would hope not. If a girl knows a faithful guy who has prayed for her as a friend, or a young man has a lady friend who has shared together with him in the various ministries at their local church, this is a person that should be seriously considered for marriage.

This leads to a second important thought. Usually, the reasons offered for the "He or she is just my friend" excuse are these stupid, personal preference reasons and they mistakenly drive an individual's decisions about a relationship. In other words, a man or a woman may not consider marrying a particular person of the opposite sex, because that person does not meet the established personal preference standards of the individual. A Christian, however, should not allow personal preferences to cloud his or her thinking as to what makes a godly man or woman. From my experience, it is the ladies who struggle more with personal preferences than the men. For example, a girl may think a guy's manners are not polished enough for her tastes, or she may be overly concerned that he lacks specific direction in life for his present circumstances. Truthfully, these issues are really mundane and should not be taken as an immediate indicator of a person's spirituality and marriageability. Though girls tend to wrestle more with preference issues than guys, a man can suffer from this type of myopia as well. I, for instance, always believed I needed to marry a girl who could play the piano, because I was preparing for the pastorate. I thought a piano playing wife would suppliment my ministry. In reality, however, the piano playing ability of a woman is a silly thing by which to measure her character, yet I persisted in this well intentioned, but misguided notion. Thankfully, the girl God brought my way doesn't play the piano, but in all the areas that are important with regards to godly character, she fulfills them to the letter. This is not to say single man or woman should discount personal preferences all together, but it does mean that preferences should be flexible and not the ultimate measuring stick as to a person's worth as a potential spouse.

Also, the Bible is quite clear that God has divinely ordained specific roles for a husband and a wife in marriage. According to Ephesians 5:22-31, a husband must lead and nurture his wife like Christ does with His Church, and a wife must submit to her husband as the Church does to Christ. A guy should notice if his potential mate is a lady that would respect him as a man and be willing to submit to his authority. If he is always bickering with her about silly things, or she is always challenging his leading in the relationship to the point where he is having to constantly wrestle back the control, then he may want to re-evalutate their situation as a couple. In like manner, a gal should take notice if her potential mate is a fellow who desires to shepherd her in godliness and is a man with godly character that she can respect and submit to. If he is a tad aloof to the importance of his God ordained role as spiritual leader and she is doing all the "leading," then she may want to re-consider their relationship. Now, submission doesn't mean a woman is a man's doormat, or that she is expected to always respond to him unquestionabley in a gigglely, babydoll voice like some Stepford Wife wanna be; nor does being the head of the woman imply that a man is to bullyishly tower over the woman and boss her around. Submission means that the woman recognizes and submits to God's decreed design for marriage as prescribed in scripture, and being the head means the man understands the earnest responsibility of leading his wife spiritually.

Then lastly, a person should observe the Christian character of his or her potential mate. Put another way, how exactly is the person's Christianity displayed in his or her daily life? There can be many examples, but just to mention a few:

How does the person interact with his or her parents?

With respect and honor? And, if the parents are lost, and hostile to Christianity, does the person respond to them with love, compassion, and respect inspite of the difficult circumstances?

What is the person's interest in spiritual things?

Would he or she be self motivated to study God's Word, or does the person do it because you want to do it?

Does the person have a heart for evangelism? Is his or her thoughts directed toward the proclaimation of Christ to lost family members and friends?

Does the individual enjoy good preaching and teaching?

How does the person take correction when confronted about some sin in his or her life?

Does the person respond with humility (even when the confronter has judged wrong), or with self righteous indignation?

How does the person handle finances? Is he or she constantly in debt?

Is the person consistently discontent with his or her financial situation?

Does the person live with in his or her means, never spending more than what is available?

Granted, there could be many other thoughts added, but these are just a few questions I would ask myself when I was considering marriage. Additionally, these questions are not necessarily hard a fast rules. We should aways provide room for personal growth and maturity. Just because a guy has a temper toward any personal rebukes or a gal has bitterness toward her abusive mother, does not mean the person is unmarriageable. The issue comes down to the heart. Is the person's direction in life to grow toward Christ-likeness? That is the key. If that is true, then how long a fellow waits to ask a lady's hand in marriage is up to him. Bearing, of course, that she will give it to him.

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