Today, I want to talk about “the one.”
You know what I’m talking about: the sand to your seashore, the day to your night, the other half that makes you whole. Your “soul mate,” as many people would call it. Today I want to talk about that “one” person, that beautiful humanoid being that is currently looking for you just as you look for them, because as you’ve seen from many of my previous blog posts, I love love! Deep down, I think we all love love – or at least we want to, to some extent – but sadly our culture has twisted our idea of true love into something that much more resembles a cheesy Hallmark movie or a dramatic, lustful romantic comedy. We all want that fairy tale ending, yet for some reason divorce rates are sky-rocketing and the average age for getting married is getting older and older. Why is this?
Because we’ve lost our grip on what true love really is.
Let me be straightforward with you: the concept of “the one” is unbiblical. In fact, this whole “soul mate” concept seems to come from Plato’s Symposium, which inspired all those cute little cartoons you see of a man with a half-circle on his chest, going throughout the world looking for the woman with the other half to his circle. The Symposium takes a mythological approach to love, starting with the Greek god (or primordial being, according to which myth you read) Eros and stating that love, in its bottom-most form, is nothing but sexual desire, which then widens its field to include religion and spirituality as well. This, however, has no biblical basis whatsoever. Colossians 2:8 reminds us to steer clear of being held “captive by philosophy and empty deceit,” so that’s why I find it so important, in discussing true love, to address the idealized fallacy we have created for ourselves in searching for a soul mate.
One interesting resource I came across when researching was the subject was by a woman who, on her one-year anniversary with her husband, wrote an article boldly titled, “My husband is not my soul mate.” Intrigued, I read through the piece, and found that a sizable chunk of it was worth sharing here (emphasis mine):
There is no biblical basis to indicate that God has one soul mate for you to find and marry. You could have a great marriage with any number of compatible people. There is no one person for you. But once you marry someone, that person becomes your one person. As for compatibility, my mom would always pipe up when my girlfriends and I were making our lists of what we wanted in a spouse (dear well meaning Christian adults who thought this would help us not date scumbags: that was a bad idea and wholly unfair to men everywhere) that all that really mattered was that he loved the lord, made you laugh, and was someone to whom you were attracted. The rest is frosting.
This is profoundly unromantic advice.
You know, I’d have to agree with that last sentence. Our culture has built up the idea of finding “the one” so much in our heads that, in hearing that perhaps there isn’t a “one” for you – or me, or anybody, for that matter – we are almost offended by how unromantic that sounds. You use verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and Psalm 37:4 to justify that God has plans to prosper you and “give you the desires of your heart,” but a quick theology lesson will teach you that, while both of those things are 100% true, you are taking it 110% out of context when trying to make it apply to your view of finding a soul mate.
However, before I totally turn you against the idea of romance and make you think that God in no way brings people together, I should stop and point out that He definitely does do that. Go back to Genesis, for instance, and we get two clear examples of God most definitely going out of His way in order to bring two people together: He literally makes Eve for Adam and presents her to him (imagine explaining to your children that y’all were introduced by God) and then, a little while later, we receive that super intense story of God sovereignly providing Rebekah as a wife for Isaac. There are examples of God going out of His way to bring people together – and I believe that He continues to do that today – but we should never delude ourselves into thinking that this is how He always works. In fact, the only person who truly had a “one” was Adam, and that’s purely because Eve was the only other woman on earth! Even Isaac could have resisted God’s will and not married Rebekah, and God would have most definitely worked around that in order to continue bringing about His will.
The truth is this, and I think Anthony Buono says it quite adeptly: “God is always involved with all aspects of our lives … He influences the people we will come into contact with and how we come into contact.” We might not always understand how God can both be in control of that while there not also being a particular “one” for us, but that is one of the many mysteries we will have to accept. King David, in Psalm 139:6, admits that some knowledge is beyond attainability from our fragile, finite minds, and for this reason Jesus Himself reminds us not to be anxious about such things. “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26) We might have a tough time understanding how God can be dually influencer and spectator in our relationships with one another, but then again, when have we ever been able to fully grasp the many roles God can perform at one time? (*cough cough Trinity*) God’s capabilities infinitely surpass our own, so should it be that surprising that our relationships with a potential spouse – which are supposed to be a picture of the unity between Christ and His bride – should be perplexing? I think not.
All of this having been said – and while recognizing that God does enjoy bringing people together – we must come to accept the fact that searching for an idealized soul mate is a scavenger hunt largely rooted in fear. We are searching for that person who completes us, that person who we will see and – like in all the movies – it will seem like the world has exploded into a utopian universe of sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops. The idea of not finding that person terrifies us as we consider the possibilities of either (A) finding the wrong person or (B) being alone for the rest of our life. The problem is – and now I quote Matt Chandler – “No spouse can complete you. Don’t look for a spouse to do only what Jesus can.” First Corinthians 7 tells us to first focus on the Lord, and in doing that, we will have all our fears removed (for in accepting God’s love, we will at last see what true love really is – and as we see in 1 John 4, true love casts out fear) and will be able to accurately search for a romantic partner under the right frame of mind.
However, fear is not the only thing driving our search for the over-idealized “soul mate” of our childhood fantasies. The other motivation behind this desire is our ego, our mental state of thinking that we are so high-and-mighty that nobody is good enough for us other than that person which can bring completion to our lives. I must quote Matt Chandler once again: “Do you see the subtle pride at work there, the arrogance? Instead of appropriately considering the character of a potential spouse, the romantic relationship becomes about scrutinizing every potential spouse to see if he or she is ‘the one’ for you, as if you are the be-all and end-all.” We make ourselves believe that sacrifice should be purely on the significant other’s part, and without even considering the option of self-sacrifice, we deduce that if that person is unwilling to sacrifice certain things, then surely the relationship was not meant to be. This is pride at its finest, and pride (which is synonymous with fear) is the antithesis of love.
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…the solution to this fear and ego is realizing that God is the one – the only One – who should and can ultimately complete us. When you ask yourself who it is that God wants you to marry, you are asking the wrong question. You see, God’s plan is for you to strive to become more like Him, not to marry a particular person or fall in love on a particular day. As long as you are pursuing God and striving after His will, then you are in accordance with His plan. Let God complete you – and forsake the idea of finding completion in someone else – and it makes the entire process a whole lot easier. And if you mess up? Well guess what, God is kind of an expert when it comes to fixing messed up situations. Just have faith.
Some of you are reading this and nearly having a heart attack as you begin to consider that your romantic aspirations have quite possibly been all for naught, but I beg you to consider how scary the idea of “the one” truly is: it’s a nice-sounding romantic ideal at first hum, but upon further consideration, it’s actually terrifying! There are billions of people on this earth, and the probability of us coming across that “one” person who is perfect for us is quite absurd (I find it particularly interesting when atheists fall prey to this delusion, because at least people of religious background can attribute meeting their “soul mate” to an act of divine intervention; atheists are simply fighting against a tidal wave of improbabilities). Or consider the idea of one person accidentally marrying the “wrong” person…it would result in a domino-like effect that resulted in infinite possibilities of mismatches! The idea just doesn’t hold ground. It makes much more sense that you could have a fantastic marriage with a various number of compatible people, and that the reason that person is truly “the one” is because they happened to be the person you chose to commit to. Simple as that.
It sounds unromantic to our culture-defined mindsets, but consider the fact that accepting this means that the person you marry chooses to love you; they aren’t just stuck with you thanks to a pre-defined matchmaking logarithm defined by a divine matchmaker in the sky. God provides us with the opportunities to meet and pursue people who could help bring about His will, but we are the ones who have to choose whether or not to love according to His will. The reason divorce rates are so high is because people are dead-set believing that they’ve married the wrong person, citing “irreconcilable differences” as the purpose for splitting up. “Well, I married somebody who I assumed would stay beautiful forever; looks like I married the wrong person.” “Turns out we don’t 100% agree on which type of pasta is the best; looks like I married the wrong person.” “He got fired from his job; looks like I married the wrong person.” “She didn’t tell me she was going to gain weight; looks like I married the wrong person.” Do you see how ridiculous and prideful it is that somebody should just be the perfect fit for you? It is much more comfortable to know somebody chooses to love you moment-by-moment, day-by-day. God didn’t have to love us; He chose to. In the same way, we don’t have a person we have to love; we choose to.
And this brings me to the crux of what I’m writing about today, which is really the primary difference between Christian love and cultural love. I’ve addressed it before, but it’s worth repeating every single day: Love is an action, not a feeling. In that same article I referenced earlier, Hannah, the wife, says, “I will not fall out of love, cannot fall out of love, because I willingly dived in and I’m choosing daily to stay in.” The Christian love is the kind that says, “Hey, I know you aren’t ‘the one’ for me, and I know that you are 100% incapable of completing or fulfilling me – only Jesus can do that – but I’m still going to choose to love you, despite all your flaws and imperfections and struggles. I’m going to love you because I choose to love you just as Christ chose to love us. It might not always be easy, but it will be worth it.” And when you say this, you must make this promise not out of feeling, but out of intention. As C.S. Lewis said, “A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling a certain way.” We must be careful to not synonymize “love” and “in love,” because the former is an action while the latter is a feeling. However, God has wired us in this beautiful way so that the more we choose to love someone, the more we will be in love with them. Isn’t that beautiful? Lewis talks more about this in Mere Christianity, which is definitely worth a read. However, for the sake of time, I must move on.
I will end (or, at least, begin my conclusion) by stating this: checklists are something I would highly discourage you from making when it comes to romantic relationships – they do nothing but return you to that initial fear and ego – but there are some questions you can ask to help lead you in the right direction. You never want to legalistically reduce your partner to a series of boxes that you need to check off – that puts far too much pressure on them – but there are certain questions you can ask about your relationship that will help guarantee that it thrives and prospers. Besides the obvious “Are they of the opposite gender?” and “Am I attracted to them?” questions, here are a few:
1) Are y’all in God’s will?
This goes back to what I said earlier about pursuing God above all else. If a relationship is pulling you away from God, you need to either slow down and realign yourselves or just call the relationship off all together if one of you is unwilling to comply. Books like Song of Solomon and 1 Corinthians have plenty of wisdom to offer in regards to being inside God’s will amidst a romantic relationship, but you must also remember that the relationship between man and a woman is meant to point towards our relationship with God, and therefore there is wisdom to be found throughout the entire Bible, since that is the epitome of the biblical narrative. One of the most straightforward verses regarding the will of God on this particular matter comes from 1 Thessalonians 4, where we are commanded to abstain from sexual immorality, which comes from the Greek word pornea, which covers much more than simply sex before marriage. If we really want God to direct us towards the “right person” (there’s a reason I put that in quotation marks), then do your very best to be obedient to Him above all else. He will provide; just make Him, not your future spouse, your chief goal.
2) Are y’all seeking wisdom?
God made it very clear very early on that it isn’t good for man to be alone, and that doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. In the throes of romance, it is very easy to get sidetracked by the feelings you experience, and quite fittingly God has given us a community of faithful believers that we can turn to as we fight to align with the Lord’s will. Proverbs is filled with advice towards the wise, and amongst these witty one-liners comes the recurring fact that wise people will be willing to consider and heed to the advice of others (1:5, 12:15, 15:32). If you are trying to seek God’s will, don’t be afraid to get other people involved; see what they think about the person you are with, and if you trust that person’s judgment and believe that it too is aligned with God’s will, then take it into willful consideration and act upon it through prayer and discernment. God uses His people for His people.
3) What are y’all’s views of marriage?
This can be a big one, because if the two of you differ on this – and neither is willing to budge – it can be a game changer. If one looks at marriage as a covenant (the Christian way) while one looks at it as a contract (the cultural way), then an issue will definitely arise; the former sees love as an action while the latter sees it as a feeling. In another article I read – the one that gave me the basic foundation of these 3 questions – the author states that “the difference between intimacy and broken vows depends largely on the work you’re willing to do within marriage.” How beautiful is that? And true. Any issue you encounter in marriage largely depends on the hearts of the two people involved, and it is through willful action – now predetermined match-making – that the marriage will succeed.
And that’s about all I have to say…for now. Technically you are right in thinking that there is a “one” person for you, but you won’t know who that “one” is until you’ve stood across from them at that altar, placed a ring on their finger, and said, “I do.” Even right now, God knows who that person is, but trust me when I say that it’s not something you need to worry about. Follow Christ by growing in intimacy with Him – and glorify Him above all else – and then you have nothing to worry about. Chase after Him and only Him, and perhaps one day you will look to the side and see somebody else running at the same pace along the same path. Blessings.
- The Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler
- Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
- "My husband is not my soul mate."
- "How God works in bring people together"
- "Does God 'bring people together'?"
- "Soul Mates: What Does the Bible Say About 'The One' You're 'Destined' to Marry?"
- "How Do I Know He's The One?"