By Heidi Comes
The average American wedding costs around $30,000 and takes over 12 months to plan. Despite all the money and wedding planning, the divorce rate continues to hover right around the 50 percent mark.
These statistics show something is missing. The thousands of dollars and countless hours spent planning are all for a moment, an event, a day. Finding a godly spouse requires time and energy spent in preparation for the marriage, not the wedding.
Little girls begin dreaming about their perfect wedding early in life. Yet, the focus is not on the kind of wife they will one day be, it is on the dress they will wear and the number of people who will stand beside them at the altar.
And in that year before the actual wedding, caterers are secured, flowers are chosen, and first-dance songs are picked. Little time is left to focus on the person they will be bringing into the marriage. Matthew Kelly, in his “Better Together” marriage preparation program, reflects that as much time, or more, should be spent planning for the marriage as is spent planning the wedding.
So what is missing? And more importantly, why would we continue to seek this institution of marriage if the time, money and effort are not paying off?
Goodness of marriage
Proverbs 18:22 says, “To find a wife is to find happiness, a favor granted by the Lord.” And it goes on to tout the value of a good wife in chapter 31:10-11, “Who can find a woman of worth? Far beyond jewels is her value. Her husband trusts her judgment, he does not lack income.” Clearly, Scripture recognizes the goodness of marriage.
As Catholics, we know marriage is sacramental, meaning it is an outward sign of a supernatural reality. We are drawn closer into communion with God through the sacrament of marriage, and through marriage, we are called to bring one another to the gates of heaven.
But the question remains, how do we get ourselves into a godly marriage, and how do we ensure it lasts a lifetime?
Jason Evert has spent his professional career focusing on this question. In one of his many books on the topic, “The Dating Blueprint,” he specifically addresses young men and the best approach to finding exactly what God wants for them. While he offers advice on everything from how to ask a girl out to when to know if you are ready for marriage, he offers the encouragement that to find the wife of your dreams, a young man needs to first be the man she deserves.
Similarly, in Sarah Swafford’s book “Emotional Virtue,” she dives into common problems faced in dating but always comes back to the need to become the person God created you to be first.
This gets to the heart of seeking and finding a godly spouse—be a godly person.
Become what you seek
There is an old expression: you are what you attract. In order to find the godly spouse you long for, you have to be a godly person. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” God knows the desires of our hearts; he knows what we long for and need before we think or imagine it.
Both Evert and Swafford acknowledge and encourage a deep and ongoing development of personal character that centers on Christ. For Evert, he calls this period of time the “loving your bride before you meet her” stage. Even in the time when a young man isn’t actively dating, he can still be forming himself in a way that speaks of the love he has for his future bride, through self-denial and spiritual development. And likewise, Evert’s wife, Crystalina, encourages young women with these words, “Instead of looking for the ideal man, become the ideal woman, and let him come find you.”
Prayer, always, is the best place to start.
While it can be tempting, at any age, to go down a list of requests during our personal time of prayer, it is important to develop habits that go beyond that. Spend time in prayer that is Christ-centered, not self-centered.
Relational prayer requires us to actively listen and share, allowing time for God to speak softly into our hearts. In these moments of prayer, pour out your heart to him in gratitude for his goodness, and with honest abandonment, share the concerns of your heart. Ask God to make known his desire for your future, and to begin preparing you for the vocation he has in mind.
Additionally, recognizing and seeking out friendships of value, people who encourage you to be the best version of yourself and inspire you to do better is so important. Surrounding yourself with people of godly character can only increase your chances of finding a godly spouse.
In the end, it all comes down to trusting God with the most vulnerable places of our hearts. Allowing him into those deep longings and desires, and allowing him room to shape and mold you, while at the same time trusting him to do the same with your future spouse.
Worth the wait
Waiting for an answer to prayer is never easy, but waiting upon a godly spouse is always worth it. Never settle for less than what God has planned for you. Even if it may not seem like it, there are worse things than being alone. The actor Robin Williams once said, “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”
Unfortunately, this fear of being alone is what drives so many young people into unhealthy relationships, only to discover that the longing for love they seek cannot be found outside of God’s perfect plan for them. When you immerse yourself in Christ and the love he has for you, his “perfect love will cast out all fear.”
So fix your eyes on Christ Jesus, the one who loves you more deeply than you can possibly imagine. Spend time with him in adoration and at Mass. Talk to him every day and develop a relationship with the one who is love. And when that person, your person, the one who God has prepared for you alone, walks into your life, you will be ready to love them as they were created to be loved.
“Don’t worry about finding your soul mate. Find yourself.” -Jason Evert